Ahhh, that new camera smell! It’s all fresh and shiny, and just waiting to start exploring with you.
I’ve learned the hard way, that before you go too far with your new camera, you’ll need three more items. It’s not an additional lens. It’s not a tripod. It’s not a set of filters. While those are wonderfully helpful photo tools, the three items you need next are not quite as “sexy.”
Item Number 1: Additional Memory Cards
You need more memory cards for several reasons. First, they’re easy to leave in pockets, purses, computers, or basically anywhere but the camera. Second, they are physically fragile, and it’s possible for them to become damaged or lose data. Third, even with large capacity cards, it’s possible to fill them with a couple of days taking photos with a high resolution camera.
So, it’s always good to have a spare memory card. Or two. Or three. Memory cards are relatively inexpensive, with most SD cards of good speed and quality costing about $.75 per gigabyte. For example, a 32GB card with relatively fast data speed of 95MB/s costs about $20, and a 64GB one costs about $35.
Which One to Get?
For memory card purchases, I usually take a middle of the road approach, as that’s usually where I find the best value. I go for a middle speed, middle size, and from a brand I’ve had a good experience with.
Size: I’ve found 64GB to be a good size for photos from my 24 megapixel camera. That lets me store about 2,000 RAW photos on one card. If you shoot lots of video, especially 4K, or have a camera with 36 megapixels or more, a 128GB card might fit better.
Speed: For my current needs a read/write speed of 95MB/s works well. Again, if you do lots of video, sports, or have a 36+ megapixel camera, you might want a card that can write at 300MB/s.
Brand: This one’s easy, as SanDisk has pretty much set the standard for SD cards. So, if you’re buying SD cards, SanDisk is a very good choice, in my experience. It’s possible to spend more, but I’d rather save that extra money for lenses. There are less expensive cards, but not by a whole lot, so it’s just not worth saving a few dollars at the potential cost of missed moments.
Item Number 2: Additional Batteries
If your camera battery is dead, your camera is now just a pretty paperweight.
If you have a DSLR camera, one extra battery will likely be enough, as those batteries are usually good for 800-1,000 photos or more. If you have a mirror less camera, you’re likely going to want more. Lots more. Mirrorless cameras generally get many less photos per battery as the batteries are smaller to fit in the smaller camera bodies, and the cameras drain them faster as they are always powering a screen and the camera sensor.
I have six batteries with me on a wedding day with my Fujifilm X-T2, and will use 4-5 of those in taking 2,000 photos.
Which One to Get?
The general decision to make with extra batteries is whether to stay with original equipment ones, or consider third party options. I’ve had good experience with both original batteries and third party ones. For my Fujifilm X-T2, third party batteries from Watson cost $20, where the Fujifilm brand ones cost $65. The main difference I’ve noticed in the third party batteries is that when the camera battery charge indicator first shows red/low battery, the Watson battery will be much closer to depletion (10 or so photos), while the original Fuji batteries will get a few more photos than that.
Item Number 3: Extra Hard Drive
There’s an old saying about computers: “It’s nota matter of IF your hard drive will crash, but WHEN.”
So, with it being a given that your main computer hard drive will have some kind of failure, it’s extremely important to have a backup copy of your photos. There’s a couple of general ways to accomplish this.
One option to copy your photos is online storage, sometimes referred to as cloud storage. I don’t recommend this as a primary backup as it can be expensive, and it’s relatively slow, especially when uploading multiple terabytes of photo data.
Another option, and my suggestion, is to purchase a portable hard drive to copy all your important data.
Which One to Get?
We live in a wonderful time when hard drive storage has never been less expensive and there’s now one main connection format. My suggestions will mostly focus on portable hard drives which use USB-3 and get power from the computer.
Size: My suggestion is to get a hard drive with as much storage as possible. I just purchased a 5TB portable hard drive that is just a bit larger than a deck of playing cards for $130. My photos take up a bit more than 2.5TB of space for approximately 70,000 photos.
Format: USB-3 is the most common format, so it’s generally the one to go with. Newer computers are moving to USB-C, so sometime in the next 5 or so years, that will likely be the new normal.
Spinning Disk (HD) or Solid State Drive (SSD)? Currently, small, spinning hard drives are much less expensive than SSD’s. A 2TB HD is available for approximately $65 while a 2TB SSD is about $560 at the time of this writing. SSD’s have several advantages: they are faster, smaller, lighter, and more durable as they have no moving parts.
Brand: I’ve used hard drives from all the major brands including: Seagate, LaCie, Western Digital, and G-Tech. All have worked well with no problems for me.
Replacement Strategy: I replace my portable hard drive about every 18 months. I assume my backup will also fail, at some point, so by keeping my hard drives relatively new, I hope to minimize this risk.
What gear did you get next after your camera?